American Sign Language (ASL) is a complete, complex language that utilizes specific hand shapes, hand positions, hand movements, body movements, and facial expressions to form words and sentences. It is the first language of many Deaf North Americans, and one of several communication options available to individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing, or hearing. Even though ASL is used in America, it is a language completely separate from English. It contains all the fundamental features a language needs to function on its own--it has its own rules for grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. ASL is not universal, and many different sign languages have evolved in different regions of the world. Adults who wish to become fluent in ASL must dedicate time and extended practice to this effort, as is true for the acquisition of any second language.

Adapted from: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, National Institutes of Health

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